Titanic letter

A letter written on Titanic stationary by Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva as they sailed aboard the ship shortly before it struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. (Henry Aldridge And Son Auctioneers/AP)

A letter written by a passenger on the Titanic describing the "wonderful passage" — hours before the ship hit an iceberg — sold at auction Saturday for $200,000 US.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the handwritten note, which had belonged to a collector, was bought by an anonymous overseas telephone bidder during a sale in Devizes, western England.

The price, which includes a fee known as the buyer's premium, topped the pre-sale estimate of $168,000 US.

Aldridge said the price reflected "the exceptional quality and rarity" of the letter.

Titanic letter

Esther Hart describes the 'long long days and nights' aboard the Titanic. (Henry Aldridge And Son Auctioneers/AP)

The letter was written by second-class passenger Esther Hart on April 14, 1912. "The sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now," she said of the ship's journey from England toward New York.

Her 7-year-old daughter Eva added a postscript: "Heaps of love and kisses to all from Eva."

Hours later the passenger liner described as "practically unsinkable" hit an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 people including Hart's husband, Benjamin.

The letter, on White Star Line notepaper, was tucked inside the pocket of a sheepskin coat Benjamin Hart gave Esther as he put his wife and daughter in a lifeboat. The family had been travelling from England to Canada, where they planned to settle.

Esther and Eva were rescued, along with some 700 others.

Esther Hart died in 1928. Eva Hart, who died in 1996, became a prominent Titanic survivor, critical of attempts to salvage the ship, which she considered a mass grave.

Prices for Titanic memorabilia have soared in recent years. In October, a violin believed to have been played as the doomed vessel sank sold for more than $1.7 million US.

Other excerpts from the letter include:

"My Dear ones all. As you see it is Sunday afternoon and we are resting in the library after luncheon."

"I was very bad all day yesterday could not eat or drink and sick all the while, but today I have got over it."

"This morning Eva and I went to church...and she sang out loud, she is very bonny."

"Tho they say this ship does not roll on account of its size. Any how it rolls enough for me, I shall never forget it. It is very nice weather but awfully windy and cold."

"They say we may get into New York Tuesday night but we are really due early Wednesday morning, shall write as soon as we get there."

'This mighty expanse of water, no land in sight and the ship rolling from side to side.' - Esther Hart

"I hope you are all quite well. Let this be an all around letter as I can't write properly to all till I can set my foot on shore again. We have met some nice people on board and so it has been nice so far. But oh the long long days and nights."

"Well, the sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now. There has been no tempest, but God knows what it must be when there is one. This mighty expanse of water, no land in sight and the ship rolling from side to side."

Aldridge, whose auction house specializes in Titanic items, said the continuing fascination with the ship and its passengers was no surprise.

"It was a microcosm of society," he said. "Every man, woman and child on that ship had a story to tell, so you have over 2,200 individual subplots to the main story.

"The Titanic encapsulates almost every human emotion we are able to experience."

With files from CBC News